The first blog of the New Year (Happy New Year everybody!). The weather isn't the only issue I've had to address but not surprisingly the renewed snow and continuing freeze has dominated the last few days.
There is often a fine distinction between fact and opinion but the fact is that primary and secondary routes have been gritted on a regular basis. I accept it's not always obvious. By way of example, on January 2nd, I went to the shops by car. Whilst back streets like the one I live on had not been gritted, main roads like Middleton Road clearly had. As I set off, it began to snow again and by the time I'd finished a journey of no more than two miles all the grit was completely covered in a new dose of snow. Side roads and pavements haven't been gritted. To be effective the treatment needs to be repeated regularly, and the workforce and machinery required to do this would be absolutely immense. As the Manchester Evening News said today "Would we all be crying so loudly for action if, a few months from now, we were to receive inflated Council Tax demands to pay for fleets of snow ploughs and mountains of grit which would be used in earnest only once every few years? ", and even that doesn't account for the army of people that would be needed to go with it. It's widely accepted that this is the most extreme weather we've had for around three decades and that does mean not everything will work as normal.
I might upset one or two people now - what's new - but for most of us this is at worst a big inconvenience. However, for some people in the city, the very elderly, people with impaired mobility, it can be far more serious. That's why the City Council and other bodies that provide services for us have been busy contacting around six thousand of our most vulnerable residents to make sure they are safe, warm and have food. That's not just a one off and will continue for as long as necessary. But not every vulnerable resident will be on the City Council's books which is why we are saying that if there was ever a time to be a good neighbour, it's now. So if you do have elderly people or people who can't get out at all living in your neighbourhood, now is the time to give them a call and check that they are ok.
An additional difficulty at times like these is information. The Council has been trying to provide as much as possible via our website and the media and have been urging other public service organisations to do likewise. After yesterday's big snow, virtually all our services have returned to normal today. There have been no refuse collections for the second day but the collection operatives have been out clearing snow and it is intended to make up for the missed rounds on Saturday and Sunday. Although it is forecast to be very cold tonight, unless there is more heavy snow, there is no reason (apart from in certain exceptional circumstances) why all public services, including schools, shouldn't be operating normally tomorrow.
Finally, a Thank you. We've only been able to do what we have, to provide support to our most vulnerable residents because of the Council staff who turned in for work yesterday. Some made phenomenal efforts, like the member of staff who walked for three hours in the snow to get in to work. That's what public service is all about and there are thousands of Council staff and other public servants who deserve our thanks for their skill and dedication.